Black Entrepreneurship in Chicago

In Chicago, black entrepreneurs seeking venture capital face excessive scrutiny and discrimination

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Media Outlet: Belt Magazine

Steve Friess wrote for Belt Magazine about the ways some actors in Chicago are addressing the challenges black entrepreneurs face. This story is part of the RiseLocal project of the National Network.

Boyede Sobitan and Fola Dada dressed their best for the meeting — sharp blazers, solid ties, pressed slacks, shined shoes — and came prepared with a pitch deck full of facts and figures. The financier they were meeting was far less professional in every way. He sat across Sobitan and Dada at a checker-topped Starbucks table in a sweatshirt and jeans, checked his phone constantly as they spoke and, just a few minutes in, seemed fidgety and annoyed to be there. The visit, he impatiently said, was “a favor to a friend.”

The duo forged ahead cheerfully on that unseasonably warm January 2016 morning in Chicago. They sought $250,000 in venture capital for OjaExpress, their nascent company taking online orders for and making deliveries of hard-to-get food items popular among immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. “It’s Peapod for exotic groceries,” as Sobitan says often.